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Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association Blog

Help NEHPBA Fight Gas Bans in New England and New York

22 September 2020

As you create your budget for 2021, the NEHPBA Board needs your support, once again, in continuing our very successful and effective campaign to fight on your behalf against gas and fossil fuels bans in the Northeast. We hope that you can once again assist in funding our regional lobbying efforts.

As you know, we have hired O’Neil & Associates, a prestigious lobbying firm with whom we have been very effective in fighting Energy Zero (Net-Zeo/Electrification/Gas Ban) Issues. This has been a valuable and worthy expense to forward our progress. We are asking all members as well as HPBA to help us fund this cause for continuing the fight into 2021. You may or may not know that several members, including dealers, manufacturers and distributors, have agreed to funding help. As you know, there is great concern with the relentless initiative to ban natural gas and fossil fuels in our region. With the help of our lobbying firm we have so far been very successful.

 Here is some insight into a few of our winning campaigns: 

  • Board of Building Regulations & Standards, MA (BBRS) - State Wide NetZero Building code – Testified at Public Hearing and submitted written comments. Got BBRS to “stay” the vote in Nov 2019, pushing it off until May 2020.
  • A Members-Only webinar with David Ismay, Undersecretary of Climate Initiative to Governor Baker – the highest government official we have ever had the ear of one-on-one for a conversation re the path to Net-Zero.
  • MA Attorney General Healy voted against the Brookline, MA city-wide gas ban – Submitted written testimony on behalf of our members and initiated a letter-writing/email campaign to the MA AG in July 2020.  
  • MA S.2842 State-Wide Gas Ban Legislative Amendment we had overturned through a phone call/email campaign by our members.
  • Overturned MA amendment 61 to House Climate Bill removing language about improving greenhouse emissions through the use of biomass/wood/proper forestation – email writing campaign for members to Massachusetts House of Reps.
  • Board of Building Regulations s & Standards, MA (BBRS) - State Wide NetZero Building code – Again testified at Zoom Public Hearing and submitted written testimony. Convinced BBRS to vote against and overturn this building code in May 2020, removing this completely from the agenda going forward.
  • Presently, we are writing a comment letter on behalf of our members to be submitted to the Conference Committee regarding the Massachusetts Climate Bill.

We are also working on a "Save Our Natural Gas and Propane" campaign hopefully in combination with Propane Gas of New England (PGANE) and HPBA, we are publishing regular press releases on “energy diversity and security”, Joel Etter (NEHPBA President) and I will be participating in a podcast with O’Neil & Associates on this subject in October, and we are closely monitoring legislation in CT regarding greater accountability in the utility sector, natural gas legislation in NY, as well as licensing legislation in VT.

NEHPBA has joined the Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy (MCSE) and The Empowerment Alliance. NEHPBA had a hand in writing and editing the MCSE letter to the conferees regarding the MA Climate Bill.

We will continue the fight for Clean and Affordable Energy. Please join us. We appreciate any donation either monthly or a one-time sponsorship. https://nehpba.org/donation#!form/Sponsorship

Thank you for your Support. Please let me know if you have any questions at all. I am available via phone and email anytime.



Why Attend HPBA Expo 2021 in Nashville, TN

9 September 2020

While life is drastically different this year, one thing is sure—hearth, patio, and barbecue sales have been heating up all year. HPBExpo is your best opportunity to reconnect with the industry and access the latest trends, technology and training that will ensure your customers turn to you when they invest in their homes and businesses.

Held in the heartland of Nashville, HPBExpo’s vibrant location will attract top retailers coming to see suppliers showcase their latest products and innovations your customers will be demanding in upcoming seasons. With the barbecue market poised to grow by more than $3 billion by 2023 and the hearth market by almost $4 billion by 2023, consumers are investing heavily in their homes. Make sure you’re part of it by registering now for HPBExpo.

Join Us for Three Days of:

  • Business strategies and solutions that address the challenges and opportunities of the current market
  • Networking opportunities with industry veterans, new businesses and top suppliers—hear what’s working and how others are adapting in today’s new normal
  • Actionable solutions you can use right away to grow your revenue
  • Access to the industry’s latest innovation in multi-functional furniture, barbecue technology, and hearth and patio-heating equipment
  • More than 30 expert-led education and training sessions that will give you a competitive edge—and National Fireplace Institute® (NFI) Certification

Registration begins tomorrow, September 10, 2020! Register now. For more information, contact NEHPBA.


MA Employers Have Short Window to Challenge Unemployment Charges

20 August 2020

Associated Industries of Massachusetts today alerted members to keep an eye out for their unemployment benefit charge statements for the month of July 2020 and to file any protests to those charges within 30 days.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) all COVID-19 related benefit credits will be reflected on the July 2020 Benefit Charge Statement. Employers are asked to wait until they have received these charges to initiate claims protests.  Currently, employers have 30 days from the date of their July statement to protest any claims through the DUA.

AIM has been fielding questions from employers who received charges for the consecutive months of March, April, May, and June as well, but we have been informed that the July 2020 statements will be most relevant and up to date.

According to the federal CARES Act, reimbursing employers (those who pay into the system on a per-claim basis versus contributory employers who pay through a traditional payroll tax) are liable for 50 percent of their COVID-19 related unemployment charges. The same legislation shields contributory employers paying into the system through payroll taxes from covering COVID-19 claims by charging them to each state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund. State legislation passed into law this May allows reimbursing employers in Massachusetts 120 days from the date on their July statement to complete payment on the UI charges made to their accounts.

Although contributory employers are not liable for COVID-19 claims, AIM encourages all employers to thoroughly review their benefit charge statements and to protest any incorrect charges they see.

The state’s employers ultimately fund the UI Trust Fund, which has been bearing the brunt of an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims since March.

According to the Massachusetts Trust Fund Outlook Report from May 2020, the status of the Fund will become insolvent into 2024, at least, especially if the federal government takes no further action. The Fund is expected to be in the red by $3 billion at the end of this year, $6 billion at the end of 2021 and 2022, and insolvent still by about $5.22 billion at the end of 2024.

The same report indicates employer contributions stand to increase by $6 million in Fiscal Year 2021 through automatic employer rate increases that are based on the Fund’s overall financial condition. Massachusetts remains a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Employers currently have only 30 days to file all benefit charge protests. Due to the influx of claims related to COVID-19, protests must be submitted online through an employer’s individual UI Account by logging in and selecting “Benefit Charge Activity,” followed by “Benefit Charge Protest.”

In order to file a successful protest, employers must have access to the claimant’s full name and Social Security Number. The employer must complete all fields marked with a red asterisk and enter the reasons for protesting in the available text box while leaving the “Mail Date,” and “Document ID” fields blank.

The “Last Day Worked” entered in the protest must match the last day reported by the claimant whose benefits charges are being protested. In order to access this information through the DUA, employers are directed to email the Department at EmployerCharge@detma.org with “Last Day Worked Inquiry” specified in the subject line of their email.

Reimbursing employers are asked to email UIEmployerReports@detma.org with any additional questions. All other inquiries and concerns are again directed to EmployerCharge@detma.org.

The DUA has additionally made the following resources available for employers seeking to understand their UI responsibilities:

AIM has continued to advocate on the federal level for direct, immediate financial relief to state UI Trust Funds and additional forgiveness for non-profits and reimbursing employers who are still liable for 50 percent of their UI bills.

To read more about the condition of the UI Trust Fund and AIM’s comments to the Globe, please click here (paywall). 

To access additional AIM guidelines and resources on how to protect your business from unemployment insurance fraud, please see our previous UI blog post – Be On Alert for National Unemployment Insurance Scam 

Source: BUDGET, TAX, & FINANCE ECONOMY NEWS 


Widespread Power Outages Across New England Highlight Importance of Energy Diversity

6 August 2020

August 6, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEHPBA: Preserving access to natural gas and other fuel sources is critical for emergency readiness in major weather events

Sudbury, MA – The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association today said that widespread power outages being experienced across New England highlight the critical nature of energy diversity and the risks of over-dependence on electric power for household and commercial heating, cooking and cooling.

More than 220,000 households were without power in Massachusetts following Tropical Storm Isaias late Tuesday night, while approximately 50,000 lost power in New Hampshire. Rhode Island reported over 100,000 households without power after the storm, and a staggering 700,000 homes were still without power Thursday morning across Connecticut, leaving work crews scrambling to restore service and state officials furious at utility response times.

“Tropical Storm Isaias is a summer weather event, but it’s a vivid illustration of how huge sections of the power grid can be knocked out in a matter of minutes at any time of the year,” said Joel Etter, President of NEHPBA and Senior Wholesale Account Manager for Hearth & Home Technologies. “Winter Nor’easters, blizzards and ice storms are something we are all too familiar with in New England. When the grid goes down in those conditions, over-reliance on electric power can be dangerous.”

NEHPBA is part of a cross-section of industry associations and advocates fighting to maintain energy diversity in the marketplace – as special interests support initiatives to ban natural gas, complicate regulations around propane and wood-burning fuel products and limit choices for home-heating systems. The industry is working together with other businesses as well as consumers to ensure natural gas continues to be available in New England and the Northeast as part of a complete range of energy choices.

Banning new natural gas connections or curbing existing use dramatically will hurt Americans when costs of living are already high. The over-reliance on electric power for heating and cooking exposes households to higher risks when major weather events knock out the grid.“New England households need diverse energy choices to maintain financial stability, and to protect families when the region’s electric power infrastructure sustains massive failure– as we are seeing today,” said Karen Luther, Executive Director of NEHPBA. “It happens in the summer and it happens in winter. It happened this week and it will happen again.”


About the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

Since 1985, the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) has represented the interests of the hearth industry in the Northeast.  NEHPBA was originally incorporated in January 1985 as the Northeast Solid Fuel Alliance (NESFA) in recognition of the unique demands of business in the Northeast. In June of 1992, NESFA members voted to become the first affiliated member of the national Hearth Products Association (HPA) and became the Northeast Hearth Products Association (NEHPA). In 2002, NEHPA became the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) in conjunction with the merger of the national HPA with the Barbecue Industry Association to become the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), thus recognizing the diversification of the modern industry.  The NEHPBA name has remained since 2002.


Why Peak Electricity Usage Matters (& The Importance of Natural Gas)

29 July 2020

With hot and humid conditions enveloping New England, demand for electricity across the region hit its highest level so far this year at about 6:30 p.m. Monday.

This year’s peak experience in many ways highlights how the regional power grid is changing and how far it has to go to fully decarbonize.

ISO New England, the organization that oversees the regional power grid, had forecast this summer’s peak usage would hit 25,500 megawatts between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Actual usage came in at 24,736 megawatts, more than 300 megawatts higher than last year’s peak but nearly 1,600 megawatts lower than 2018.

The all-time peak usage in the region was 28,130 megawatts on August 2, 2006. Peak usage has been stagnant or dropping in recent years, primarily due to energy efficiency efforts that have helped curb overall electricity demand by 3,300 megawatts and small-scale solar and wind installations that reduce demand for power from the grid. 

COVID-19 is also playing a role this year. Energy usage appears to be higher in residential homes as more people stay at home but lower in commercial and industrial facilities. Overall, ISO New England estimates, COVID-19 has cut energy demand by 3 to 5 percent. 

Peaks have out-sized importance because the region needs enough power plants to meet demand when demand is at its highest point. Lowering the peak is beneficial since it means the region can get by with fewer power plants.

Peaks used to occur in the afternoon, when temperatures hit their highest levels and air conditioners are going full tilt. But the deployment of solar panels on roofs across the region has pushed the peak into the early evening. During the afternoon, the behind-the-meter solar installations produce the most power. As the sun begins to set, however, solar power production falls off and the region becomes more and more dependent on large-scale power generators.

There is lots of talk on Beacon Hill about going 100 percent renewable, but Monday’s peak experience illustrates how far the region has to go. The regional power grid handled Monday’s surge in electricity demand easily, but in doing so it relied primarily on power generated by natural gas (70 percent), nuclear (16 percent), hydro (8 percent), renewables (5 percent), and even a bit of oil and coal. The oil and coal plants tend to come online only when demand is at its highest.

Most energy analysts want to decarbonize the economy using electricity. Cars and trucks, for example, would shift from gasoline to electricity. Electricity would also be used for heat and hot water in homes and commercial buildings. Brookline took a step in this direction recently by approving a bylaw banning pipes carrying natural gas and oil in all new construction. Attorney General Maura Healey, while sympathetic to the bylaw’s intent, rejected the measure because it conflicted with three state laws. 

If the region’s power grid doesn’t go green, the shift to electricity won’t pay many environmental dividends. That’s why the state is pursuing the purchase of offshore wind and hydro-electricity from Canada, to help reduce reliance on natural gas and other fossil fuels.

As of Tuesday morning, however, the power grid was relying most on natural gas. According to ISO New England’s real-time information, the grid’s power was coming primarily from natural gas (74 percent), with the balance from nuclear (19 percent), renewables (5 percent), and hydroelectricity (2 percent). 

Commonwealth Daily Download, By Bruce Mohl 


Economic Benefits through the Direct Use of Natural Gas

22 July 2020

Over 69 million American households rely on natural gas utilities to provide energy to appliances inside their homes. Another 5.7 million more commercial and industrial businesses are supplied through the same local gas utilities to meet their daily needs. This feat is made possible by hundreds of thousands of individuals employed by gas utilities and their extended supply chains. However, job creation and economic development don’t end with the actions of utilities or by producers. Through this service, job opportunities exist across the entire U.S. economy through the direct, indirect, and induced effects of supplying energy to homes and businesses.

In addition to the 138 thousand individuals employed by natural gas utilities, companies that supply these utilities create associated natural gas jobs too, and the grand sum of all employed individuals encourages additional economic activity through the consumption of goods or services by individuals. These companies also provide a critical intermediate service for other businesses to operate. This analysis will determine both the total impact on employment from the natural gas direct use supply chain as well as to uncover the extent to which utility jobs stay local.

Based on the findings from the REMI model, in 2018, over 3.4 million jobs were connected to the direct use of natural gas. These jobs added $408 billion to GDP and paid $152 billion in personal income. The model also indicated a strong relationship between natural gas utilities and the local economy, with as much as 83 percent of all employment remaining local. Also, the prospects for new sales and the more specific inclusion of converting electric homes to natural gas have positive economic growth beyond the potential savings sustained by individual households. 

Want to be part of the solution and part of the conversation? Contact Northeast HPBA.

Click here for the full report.

AGA.org


MA Reps Rally for Emissions-Cutting Roadmap Bill

15 July 2020

Action Possible After July 31, Two Reps Suggest


BOSTON, JULY 15, 2020.....About a dozen House lawmakers joined climate and environment advocates Wednesday morning to drum up support for a bill that would require the executive branch to prepare a formal plan to reach the shared goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka this year each declared their support for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a policy that climate activists have long been pushing. Both branches have passed climate bills but the 2050 target still hasn't been formalized by the Democrat-controlled Legislature with time set to run out on the session in two weeks, unless lawmakers waive their own rules.

"I personally think it's the best bill that is in the Legislature right now," Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, House chairman of the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee, said of Rep. Joan Meschino's bill to require a 2050 emissions reduction roadmap.

Meschino's bill (H 3983) would codify the target of net-zero emissions by 2050, require the establishment of interim 2030 and 2040 targets, require the Baker administration by the end of 2021 to file a plan detailing how Massachusetts can meet the 2050 target, and require that the plan be updated every two-and-a-half years. The bill was reported out of Pignatelli's committee favorably almost a year ago and has been in the House Ways and Means Committee since.

"We're all well aware of the climate crisis. The issues present as public health, public safety, environmental justice, environmental health, social justice. However, the solution is an economic one. It is the decarbonization of our economy," Meschino said during a virtual rally hosted by 350 Mass, Conservation Law Foundation, Mothers Out Front, Elders Climate Action Massachusetts and others. "And if we're going to accomplish those goals, then we need a plan. And that is why I filed this bill. I filed the 2050 roadmap because we need a plan to achieve our goals."

The 12-year-old Global Warming Solutions Act requires an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2050, but the Baker administration is already working on its own roadmap to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 with the help of "experts and stakeholders," the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has said. The administration intends to release its plan to meet the state's carbon reduction goals by the end of this year.

Meschino said she thinks of her bill as making a series of critical updates to the Global Warming Solutions Act and noted that Baker's energy and environment secretariat "has begun to do some of the work around the backcast analysis," in which the schedule of emission reductions is detailed and then paired with the strategies proposed to achieve them over time.

"I think that this bill is one of the single most important pieces of legislation that we're going to put through this year. It's going to be transformative of the way that we live, and it's going to be transformative for our economy," Meschino, a Hull Democrat, said.

Though the bill is in the House Ways and Means Committee, Pignatelli advised advocates to focus their lobbying efforts on DeLeo and Rep. Tom Golden, the chairman of the House Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy who is spearheading a review of climate and environmental bills.

"I think that's where these decisions are going to be made," he said.

And though formal sessions of the Legislature are currently due to end after July 31, Pignatelli said he expects that lawmakers will get another crack at passing climate legislation and other bills later this year.

"Everything has been kind of thrown off the rails, like I said. We normally would be done by the end of July. I truly believe that we will be called back into session sometime this fall. We don't even have a state budget at this point. So, under normal circumstances, we'd all be scrambling for the last two weeks of this session to get this bill across the finish line. I still would love to see that happen on Joan's bill," he said. "But if it doesn't, I don't feel any of us should feel the collective, 'oh my God, we lost another time.' So I think that the advocacy should continue, whether it's the next two weeks, or the next few months."

Legislative leaders haven't announced plans to attempt to extend formal sessions, although at this point it appears nearly impossible for the branches to pass an overdue annual budget through both branches this month.

Rep. Michelle Ciccolo of Lexington said that Meschino's 2050 roadmap bill is one of the top 10 bills that she would like to see get across the finish line this session, whether the vote comes before July 31 or sometime between August and January.

"Toward that end, I've been sending letters and emails to [House] leadership, making phone calls and actually asking them to look at extending the session," she said Wednesday. "I'm fully in favor of us coming back after the election, after the primaries, staying late into August, whatever it is that we need to do to make sure that we get this across the finish line."

Rep. Kay Khan, chairwoman of the House Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, said she would be happy to raise the subject of Meschino's bill with both DeLeo and Golden.

"I think that carbon neutrality by 2050 is within our reach and it is our responsibility to our children -- and I'm lucky enough to have seven grandchildren and I think about them every day and the importance of moving forward and to get this done -- and the roadmap bill lays out a very big yet promising goal and path ahead," Khan said. "It is designed to accelerate our progress toward net-zero emissions by pushing us to exploit and explore all possible avenues toward reaching that goal, and the time is now."

Climate legislation had figured to be a central focus of the legislative session's home stretch since the House and Senate had each passed major climate-related bills before most business was put on pause.

The House last July approved a roughly $1.3 billion bill -- the so-called GreenWorks bill -- centered around grants to help communities adapt to climate change impacts, and at the end of January the Senate overwhelmingly passed a suite of climate bills that called for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and set deadlines for the state to impose carbon-pricing mechanisms for transportation, commercial buildings and homes.

Golden has said that the House "is eager to move forward" on climate legislation, and he and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Michael Barrett, are in agreement that the Legislature ought to pass a climate bill into law by the end of 2020.

"The House of Representatives has taken an approach for some time with GreenWorks," Golden said at the end of June. "I'm looking forward to working with Senator Barrett on moving our vision as well as the Senate's vision towards a final, rectifying a final piece of legislation. I think it's vitally important that we finish this before 2020 ends."

Want to get involved? Want to get involved in the conversation? Contact Northeast HPBA today!

statehousenews.com, by Colin A. Young7/15/20 3:02 PM


MA Road Map to Net Zero: Q&A for NEHPBA Members with Governor Baker's Office

30 June 2020

Northeast HPBA is pleased to announce that on July 8th, 2020 at 3 p.m. we will be having a Zoom Q&A session with a member of Governor Baker's Administration to discuss the future of Energy in the Commonwealth. This Q&A session is specifically for NEHPBA and MCSG members! David Ismay, Undersecretary for Climate Change in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has committed one hour to meet with our membership to discuss the 2050 Roadmap. While this conversation will be focused on Massachusetts, we feel as though it should be of interest to all members, as what starts in MA often spreads throughout the northeast and the country. 

We anticipate a constructive conversation with Mr. Ismay. We will provide additional details closer to the event, including the Zoom link to participate and more information on how you will be able ask questions of Mr. Ismay regarding the 2050 Roadmap. Please RSVP here and let us know whether or not you will attend. We will send you the registration link as the event gets closer. 

We look forward to the information Mr. Ismay will provide us at the Q&A and hope you all will be able to join. 

Thank you,

Karen and Joel


Details on EPA’s Sell-Through Proposal

3 June 2020

EPA’s latest sell-through proposal was published in the Federal Register on May 22nd, starting a 45-day comment period with written comments due on July 6, 2020. HPBA issued a statement in response to the proposal on May 15th when a pre-publication draft was made public.

  • The proposal was made in response to the impact of COVID-19 closures on sales of Step 1 products as the May 15, 2020 deadline to sell Step 1 appliances approached. 
  • EPA is taking comments on allowing additional time to sell Step 1 appliance. 
  • In order to grant this additional sell-through period, EPA needs to be able to justify the need for additional time due to COVID-19 interruptions or closures on your ability to clear out Step 1 inventory between March 15, 2020 and May 15, 2020.

What is in the Proposal

  • If enacted, the new deadline would be Monday, November 30, 2020; it would not be legal to begin selling Step 1 products until the proposal is finalized, which could be months from now. 
  • It is currently illegal to sell, offer for sale, or transfer ownership of any Step 1 products in the United States. 
  • The only way this changes is if – after consideration of all testimony and public comments – EPA decides to publish a Final Rule in the Federal Register granting sell-through. 

Public Hearing Information

A public hearing (virtual) will be held on Monday, June 8th from 9:00 am EDT to 3:00 pm EDT. 

  • To sign up to speak at the hearing or register to listen in, visit EPA’s website
  • If you wish to provide testimony at the meeting, you must register by the end of the day on Thursday, June 4th. 
  • Testimony will be limited to five minutes per presenter. 
  •  In order for EPA to consider your testimony, it is important that you address the need for sell-through as a result of the closures or lost business due to COVID-19 in the two months leading up to May 15, 2020. 

HPBA Webinar on Testimony and Public Hearing

HPBA will hold a webinar on Thursday, June 4th at 2:00 pm EDT to provide information and answer questions for members who wish to testify at the public hearing. 

  • To register for the HPBA webinar, please click here

HPBA Webinar on Written Comments

HPBA will hold a second webinar on Wednesday, June 17th at 12:00 pm EDT for members who want to provide written comments, which is most important. 

  • Register for this second webinar here 

Source: HPBA Communications


Say "NO" to a Massachusetts Net Zero Building Code!

28 May 2020

Once again the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) is holding a vote that could pass a State-Wide Net Zero stretch code (now called "EZ" stretch code for "Energy Zero"). Please sign and submit this letter to the chair of the BBRS and help stop this new building code from passing and having a dramatic effect across Massachusetts!

There is a lot of support for this from environmental advocates and this type of policy has already passed at the city level in Brookline, MA. This means it's even more important for our industry to stand up and make our opposition heard. 

Click the link and fill out the form to send an email opposing this effort. 


Step 2 Effective Date (May 15th) is Fast Approaching

12 May 2020

As we quickly approach the Step 2 effective date (May 15th), some businesses still have some Step 1 stoves left in their inventory. MAHPBA Board Members came up with an idea to address this, and HPBA reached out to the EPA and received official word that a simple donation program could be set-up with qualifying non-profit organizations. These approved non-profit organizations will manage the ownership and distribution of the stoves to identified homeowners in need. 

To participate in Stoves to Home, we ask that you complete a donation form before May 15th. 

For more information about the pre-approved non-profit organizations, how to donate products, FAQs, and to submit a donation form, please visit the Stoves to Homes page on the HPBA website

Please contact Shannon Good if you have any questions on the donation form, and Rachel Feinstein if you have any questions for HPBA. 


You Received a PPP Loan: Here are some tips for Massachusetts businesses

30 April 2020

Congratulations. You did it. You not only found a bank to accept your Paycheck Protection Program application, but the bank managed to get it to the U.S. Small Business Administration before the program ran out of funding. Lots of your peers are still scrambling to secure PPP financing. Not you. That money’s already in your bank account.

Now comes the hard part.

Out of necessity, the federal government created and opened up PPP in a hurry, before it had figured out exactly how the program would work. For that reason, you applied for PPP loans in a hurry. Many of your peers — maybe you — were ordered closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Getting that loan was a matter of survival. Now that you have the financing, you need to stick to the SBA’s rules, to ensure as much of the loan is forgiven as possible. But that’s not easy: The SBA is still clarifying the terms of forgiveness, even as you’re planning to comply with terms you signed weeks ago.

Experts say you might be in for a shock.

“I think many borrowers thought this was going to be fully forgivable, and I dare say, many of them are going to be surprised,” said Jim Browne, a Boston-based partner with the professional services firm Withum.

Just because the application process was a little fast and loose at the start doesn’t mean banks and the government won’t  be bigger sticklers going forward.

“On the back end, there’s going to be more diligence than on the front end, in terms of how this money was expended,” Browne said.

The Business Journal spoke with bankers, accountants, lawyers and entrepreneurs about what business owners should do to ensure they avoid run-ins with lenders and bureaucrats and keep the amount of the loan they need to pay back as small as possible. Here’s the advice they shared.

Don’t be afraid to hire back employees, even if the work’s not there

Many Massachusetts business owners are in a quandary. Their businesses are closed entirely, because they’re considered nonessential, or they’re operating in a much-diminished capacity because customers are stuck at home. They’ve laid off most (or all) of their employees, because the business just isn’t there. 

But under PPP rules, they must spend now 75% of the loan on payroll costs in the eight weeks after they receive the loan, if they want it to be forgiven. (The clock starts ticking as soon as the money hits their bank account.)

To reach the 75% threshold, they can hire back their one-time employees, but those workers may make more under the stimulus program’s enhanced unemployment benefits than they would on the job. And at the moment, there might be little to no work for employees to actually do.

Or they can forget about forgiveness, and treat the financing as a true loan rather than a grant. While the interest rate is only 1%, that may still be a big risk, given how much uncertainty there is around how long businesses will stay closed, and what revenue will look like once they reopen. The loan must be paid back in two years.

To avoid that risk, experts urge business owners to consider staffing back up, even if under normal circumstances they wouldn’t add to payroll.

“I’m advising them to bring them back as soon as they can, because obviously, the whole purpose of the program is to get people off unemployment,” said Thomas Petrocelli, a Wakefield accountant.

Employers should think creatively about how to use staffers. ThinkLite LLC, a Natick-based lighting company that received a PPP loan through Needham Bank, has employees taking online courses during work hours to learn new skills, or working on new research projects, Chief Operating Officer Danny Wadhwani said.

If most or all of the loan is not forgiven, it’s not necessarily the end of the world, given the low interest rate, accountants said. But owners should make that decision knowing the risks.

“If I have to pay that back at 1% over two years, I’m going to do that if it means we can stay alive,” said Joe Caligiuri, owner of Dedham training facility Stadium Performance, who plans to bring back all of his employees by July 1.

Keep careful track of everything

It’s essential that businesses document every penny they spend of the PPP money. The loan is supposed to be reserved for payroll expenses, as well as mortgage interest, rent and utility costs. If they send a rent check to their landlord, they should copy the check ahead of time and file it away. The same goes for electronic invoices.

Business owners might consider setting up a separate bank account for the loan to make the divide between the PPP money and other funds even clearer, though accountants say that’s not strictly necessary.

A good audit trail is important not just for accuracy’s sake, but for speed. Banks faced a glut of applications at the PPP’s kickoff. In a few weeks, they’ll face a glut of borrowers seeking sign-off that their loans are forgiven. Given how busy lenders will be, a misstep could mean significantly more time to achieve that sign-off.

“If you can put yourself in a position where everything is organized and they can easily see what you’ve done, it’s going to make the process so much smoother,” Nutter attorney Joshua French said. 

Keep your counselors on speed dial

Even nearly a month after the PPP launched, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around how loan forgiveness will work. More guidance is expected, but the SBA’s previous attempts at clarification have left a lot of questions, according to experts.

With so much still up in the air, business owners should be in regular contact with their bankers, accountants and lawyers for any updates on the SBA’s thinking. Withum’s Browne recommends reaching out to them daily, or every other day.

At a minimum, businesses should check in with their bank a week or two before the PPP’s eight-week run time is up, according to Salem Five CEO Ping Yin Chai.

Remember, it’s about more than maintaining payroll

One thing that is certain: There’s more to achieving forgiveness than keeping the same headcount. If you cut pay for employees making less than $100,000 a year by more than 25%, that will hurt the amount of the loan that you can recover. 

It’s important to note that, when calculating change in headcount, a firm can compare its current staffing level to either its full-time equivalent headcount in the first two months in 2020, or the same metric for Feb. 15, 2019, to June 30, 2019. If a business had been in growth mode prior to the pandemic, and its headcount was low last year, that will help it out now.

Given the changes caused by the pandemic, employers might also consider whether it makes sense to hire employees with new skill sets, rather than re-hire only laid-off workers. ThinkLite, for instance, plans to hire web developers to bolster its ecommerce platform, since remote work will be more popular in a post-pandemic world, Wadhwani said.

It’s a weird time. But don’t get too weird.

The federal government got blowback when larger, publicly traded companies secured PPP loans before many small businesses did. Officials have indicated that going forward, they will be scrutinizing loan recipients more closely. So no, you shouldn’t go investing the loan money in the stock market, or paying dividends to shareholders.

French has a simple test for deciding whether an expenditure will draw “the quadruple P — the PPP police,” as he calls them. Ask yourself, would I be doing this right now if it wasn’t for the PPP? For instance, if you’re thinking about giving employees big bonuses just to hit that 75% payroll threshold — would you be handing out big bonuses this spring if not for the loan?

“If it’s not something you would have done normally, then I’d be nervous about doing it now,” French said.

bizjournals.com



Free Courses with CEUs For The Week April 27 – May 1, 2020

27 April 2020

Plan to join the CVC Success Group April 27 through May 1, 2020 as we continue our free virtual training presentations with CEUs for the coming week. Read on for the details of each class we will present live in the coming week. Our webinars are presented for the training of the industry workforces. 

Sales Training Monday, April 27, 2 PM EST

Join the Retail Guys Training with instructor Tim Reed presenting his program entitled “Win More Showroom Sales” a perfect class for anyone in sales or sales management, with a showroom or for those who operate without a showroom. So even if you don’t have a showroom the tactics Tim will share will be a benefit for you.

  • Learn how to properly start a relationship
  • Learn how to build trust with your customer
  • Learn how to set a budget expectation
  • Learn how to nurture the relationship to successful sales closure

To register for the free class, click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3389727684660026640. Once you submit, you will receive your private link to attend the session. 

Gas Training Wednesday, April 29, 2 PM Eastern Time

This will be another gas training with industry veteran Bob Wise teaching live. You can ask your questions of Bob during the interactive presentation. This class will be one that will provide you answers on how to address field issues you may encounter during installations, service calls, and callbacks. 

  • Learn why gas components fail in the field
  • Learn the intricate details of how gas control systems operate
  • Learn new methods of troubleshooting field issues
  • Get answers to your callback issues

To join the class, simply click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2732416543831406096. Once you submit, you will receive your private link to join the class as it goes live at 2 PM Wednesday, April 29. 

Chimney Training Thursday, April 30, 2 PM Eastern Time

This will be a course for anyone in the chimney industry. This will be presented by Jerry Isenhour & Tom Urban. In this class we will be sharing methods of how service technicians will communicate and do their jobs in the new next of the changes the market will require.  

  • Learn how to start the trust building and relationship nurturing using new processes and methods
  • Learn how to utilize technology in the coming days
  • Learn how to utilize virtual technology for reporting and for sales communication

To attend this class, simply click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1757912791063879184

Office Training Friday, May 1, 2 PM Eastern Time

This will be a presentation of The History of Chimney Service In America. This class is a documentary of the chimney service industry and can relate how technology has changed the industry. An excellent class for any member of the chimney and hearth industries to increase their understanding of where we have been and where we are going.

  • Learn about the way chimney sweeping was in the 18th and 19 century and how chimney sweeping was part of many communities in the USA with Master Sweeps appointed by local government.
  • Learn how technology removed the chimney sweep from the landscape due to technology. 
  • Learn how an age old trade was revived due to a worldwide energy crisis

To join the class, click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5923380707056150544. You will receive a private link to join the class will be emailed directly to you.

All CVC Success Group live training is conducted using GoToWebinar, attendance at classes is tracked electronically, and CEUs are provided utilizing a code word system. Upon completion of a class, once you have submitted your code words and request for CEUs, CVC will prepare an attendance certificate that is sent to you and filed with the certifying agency you are certified by. 

CAN’T MAKE THE CLASS?

The CVC live classes are recorded and then stored in the CVC Base Camp library of courses joining the over 600 courses that are in the CVC Library. Want more information, simply click on www.cvcbasecamp.com or contact us at info@cvcsuccessgroup.com and we will forward your information on how to subscribe, with learner seats starting at $39.00 a month for 60 days, it is the most cost-effective online learning platform available. 

We are CVC Success Group, and we are here to assist industry members through these challenging times. If you have ideas on how we can provide this assistance, please reach out to us at info@cvcsuccessgroup.com

We are all in this together!


How Retailers Can Survive the COVID-19 Crisis

16 April 2020

I found this article and thought I would share it in light of the Webinar Series by Tim Reed, Creating a Digital Sales System, that Northeast HPBA is offering to our members. This excerpt is very insightful and talks about how retailers and small businesses must Adapt to Shifts in Digital Consumption. 

The part of the article that I found most valuable begins below:

COVID “has changed the way we internet” showing a significant shift in behavior from mobile to desktop. It's essential to ensure that all marketing messages are consistent between channels and optimized for both mobile and desktop.

More desktop time also means higher email open rates. It's a good time to continue emailing your customers as long as the messaging is considerate, provides real value, and is in touch with the current situation. Now is not the time to drive a sense of urgency around nonessential items.

Take a “crisis approach” to measurement. Create new, more frequent reporting based on the most up-to-date results you can derive. Comparing year-over-year or month-over-month results won't provide an accurate picture of digital marketing performance. Instead, build a day-over-day report beginning March 9. Watch higher-funnel metrics (e.g., engagement rates, click-through rates, brand search volume) at a channel and campaign level so that you can quickly evaluate what’s working and what's not.

Adjust your messaging to show care and respect for the customer’s constantly changing situation. More than ever, we need to be customer-first, and this means understanding what customers are going through right now. Retailers should be aware of the torrent of troubling headlines and support messaging that emphasizes an understanding of the customer’s current needs or mind-set. Review every piece of creative to ensure that it reflects that understanding.

It’s not just a matter of being careful in how you message around COVID — there's also an opportunity to extend a welcome hand by finding creative ways to bring your customer service experience to digital platforms. For example, many home décor brands are offering online interior design consultation as a way to stay connected to customers. Consider ways to shift in-person customer interactions and services online with a focus on providing value to best customers.

Take the Reigns

Above all, know that now is not the time to cut back arbitrarily. Never walk away from communicating with your best customers and best prospects. The retailers that act nimbly and decisively today can uncover unique opportunities to maintain those critical relationships in a time of rapid change and upheaval.

You can RSVP to our webinar series with Tim Reed here. Contact Karen@NEHPBA.org for access to the first webinar in the series. 

mytotalretail.com 

Read the full article here



COVID-19 Employer/Employee Questions Answered!

2 April 2020

There have been quite a few employee/employer questions. Some finally have some answers. For more click here

Answers to two common questions:

Q.  If my employer is open, but furloughs me on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No. If your employer furloughs you because it does not have enough work or business for you, you are not entitled to then take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.

Q.  If my employer closes my work-site on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but tells me that it will reopen at some time in the future, can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No, not while your work-site is closed. If your employer closes your work-site, even for a short period of time, you are not entitled to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your work-site for lack of business or because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx. If your employer reopens and you resume work, you would then be eligible for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave as warranted.

For more information, contact NEHPBA, see our COVID-19 Updates page or see the HPBA site.


How to Get the Necessary Funds to Keep Your Business OPEN

27 March 2020

Many businesses have been asking what they can do to get the necessary funds they need to keep their businesses in operation. Many have also asked if they should "lay off" all of their employees, or if they have other potential options. 

The purpose of this post is to provide you with a few potential options in dealing with the above issues:

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans

As the coronavirus pandemic prompts disaster declarations at the state and county level, small businesses and not-for-profits in those areas can apply online for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

An SBA Section 7(b) Economic Injury Disaster Loan provides up to $2 million to help business with fewer than 500 employees pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that can’t be paid due to the loss of revenue caused by a declared disaster. The loans cannot be used to cover lost profits.

The interest rates for the loans are 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for not-for-profits. The SBA determines terms on a case-by-case basis, based on each borrower’s capacity for making monthly loan repayments. The maximum loan term is 30 years.

The loans also offer a one-year deferment on payments. This means that the first payment isn’t due until a year after the official date of the loan. However, interest starts accruing on the loan the moment the funds are disbursed. 

Please click this link to learn more and apply SBA Loan Application 

Employee Related Issues

Many clients have also asked what their options are with employees besides laying them off. The IRS is coming our with various tax credits to assist with the payment of workers impacted by the Corona Virus. 

The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. We have been told that this page will be updated as new information is available. Please click this link to learn about these programs IRS Employee Wage Programs 

Looming Tax Return Deadlines

At this point in time the IRS has also extended the due date of all income tax returns, and tax payments due on April 15, 2020 until July 15, 2020. 

We hope that you follow the recommendations of health officials and stay safe through this unsettling time. 

Questions? Contact NEHPBA.


Info from Napoleon/Christopher R. Lambert & Associates


To HPBExpo Participants: A Covid-19 Update

18 March 2020

This was just sent out from HPBA: 

The health and safety of HPBExpo attendees and exhibitors are of primary importance to us every year, and more so this year. We have been continuously monitoring the COVID-19 situation before, during and since HPBExpo in New Orleans. 

We recently learned that there are presumptive cases of COVID-19 involving two members of an HPBExpo exhibitor's staff who were present at the Expo. Out of an abundance of caution, we want to share this information with you so you can take necessary steps to monitor your health and well-being.

We currently do not know whether these individuals had symptoms at the Expo or whether they attended during the COVID-19 incubation period. We are in contact with the relevant health authorities to provide them with this information and to obtain further guidance.

These are challenging and unprecedented times for our community. HPBA will continue to share updated information at HPBExpo.com, we encourage you to check this link for any updates. Our thoughts are with those affected and we wish them a full recovery.

 If you have flu-like symptoms, reach out to your medical provider for advice on next steps. Please refer to the following CDC recommendations [mmsend34.com] for protecting yourself and others.


COVID-19 Impacts on May 15 NSPS Deadline

17 March 2020

HPBA is aware of the impact of COVID-19 closures on retailers, especially those who may still have Step 1 products in stock. As businesses limit operating hours, HPBA will be reaching out to Congress to urge relief due to these exceptional circumstances. It may be possible to get additional time for product sell-through, but we need your immediate help in order to do so.

What You Need to Do

Send an email to Rachel Feinstein (Feinstein@hpba.org) by 3:00 pm EDT Thursday, March 19 with the following information:

  • How many Step 1 stoves you have left
  • Store location(s)
  • How many employees you have
  • What plans/sales have been disrupted

Unless and until any extension is passed, the legal deadline remains May 15, 2020. If you have any question, feel free to contact Northeast HPBA or HPBA.


Operation BBQ Relief Offers Support in Nashville

5 March 2020

Nonprofit responds to 66th disaster since 2011

Relief is making its way to Nashville, Tennessee, in the form of food following deadly tornadoes that struck the state early Tuesday.

Team members from Midwest-based Operation BBQ Relief arrived in Nashville on Wednesday to feed thousands of people affected by the storm.

“As bad as they look, it’s nowhere close to really as bad as it is," Stan Hays, Operation BBQ Relief co-founder, said.

Looking at footage of the aftermath, Hays said he knew volunteers were needed.

“As long as this tornado was on the ground and the number of communities that it affected, the more we started to hear, the more we knew there was going to be a need,” Hays said. “We just didn’t know how much."

More than 20 people have died as a result of the tornadoes, which spanned four counties.

Volunteers set up shop at Nissan Stadium and began serving a community that Hays told 41 Action News looked all too familiar. Responding to the devastation in Nashville marked the organization’s 66th disaster since 2011.

The 2011 tornado that destroyed most of Joplin is what prompted a group of barbecue enthusiasts and competitors turned their hobby into a helpful effort, according to Hays.

“What was going to be three to four days and a few thousand meals turned into 11 days and 120,000 meals from a parking lot," Hays said.

Operation BBQ Relief drove several smokers to Nashville that can cook enough pork to make 2,000 pulled pork sandwiches at one time. Hays said it helps in their efforts to serve more than 20,000 meals a day.

“It also does a little bit more than just, you know, nurses the body, it nurses the soul as well as we’re doing that," Hays said.

Crews plan to be in the Nashville area for seven days, Hays said, but will monitor the situation on the ground and adjust as needed.

Source: kshb.com/image from Hearth & Home


Renew Your NEHPBA Membership Now and Enjoy All the Benefits!

20 February 2020

  • Don't forget, join now and your HPBA Expo Badges are Free. After March 9 your badges over the comp allotment cost extra! So now is the time to join if you are planning on attending HPBA Expo.

Enjoy Cost Savings Benefits on insurance, computers, shipping, credit card processing, business coaching, technical training, marketing, and advertising, saving members hundreds of dollars each year.

  • Complimentary tickets to the HPBExpo.
  • Receive discounts on HPB Education Foundation courses and NFI certifications.
  • Promote Your business to consumers via the Online Member Directory and HPBA Member Store Locator.
  • Benefit from HPBA’s Consumer Campaigns that include traditional and social media.
  • Access vital industry information and consumer use and awareness with HPBA’s online Market Research Reports.
  • Contact your representative via HPBA’s Advocacy Center and stay up to date on legislation and regulation affecting your business with HPBA’s Government Affairs Team.
  • Expand your company’s reach through your HPBA Affiliate. NEHPBA supports the hearth industry at the local, state and regional level with services, educational opportunities, and legislative monitoring.
  • Stay informed with HotNews, monthly newsletter, and Newscast, featuring weekly articles on hearth and outdoor living products.

Want to renew your NEHPBA membership? Click here.


Want to join?

Become a Member

Members of the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) and its regional Affiliates are the leading companies that produce, sell, or service appliances and accessories in the hearth and barbecue industries in North America. Join today to take advantage of all the benefits your company will receive.

JOIN NOW